Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Haunted by Love

Haunting fascinates us as a culture. While we are not focused on death as keenly as say the ancient Egyptians, I could argue that modern American culture is very focused on the supernatural aspects of death as it relates to specters, haunting, poltergeists and more. We want to know, unquestioningly, that something is on the other side of death. That death is not ‘the end’.

Consider for a moment in the The Mummy starring Arnold Vosloo, Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. Vosloo’s Imhotep suffered a hideous fate as he battled death to restore his lover to life. He used the Book of the Dead to summon her soul back, but he could not complete the ritual. To add insult to injury, the Magi, the Pharoah’s Guard locked Imhotep in his body forever, preventing his soul from reuniting with his beloved beyond the grave.

When Evie awoke Imhotep thousands of years later, his one burning desire was to be reunited with his lover. Everything he did was to sustain this goal. In the second film, sadly, he realizes that the all-consuming love he felt for Anucksunamun was not reciprocated as she wouldn’t risk herself to save him despite everything he had suffered for her. It was heartbreaking. Paired with the love story of Evie and Rick, it’s one of the best paranormal or haunted romances I’ve ever seen done by Hollywood.


Love after Death

The concept of being haunted by love is hardly a new one. Stories abound of men and women who resist passing on to cling to the living. In the hugely successful film Ghost starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, Swayze’s Sam clings to the woman he loves because he could never tell her how much he loved her. He also wanted to protect her from those who killed him. When he made his peace, he was able to let go. That story resonates with me still and all the more so since we had to say goodbye to actor Swayze this year.

Always was a film starring Holly Hunter, Richard Dreyfuss and John Goodman. Like Ghost Dreyfuss’ character dies very early in the film, but he too clings to life to the woman he loves (Hunter) and to his best friend (Goodman). After he saves them both, he is able to let go and move on, thus allowing them to move on with their lives as well.

What Dreams May Come

Love is so powerful a force in our psyche that we cannot imagine it perishing with death. We still love those who have gone before us and I cannot imagine perishing and not still loving those left behind. But no film captured the raw power of love and grief in infinite variety than What Dreams May Come. Chris and Annie were in love and led a relatively idyllic life in the suburbs. Annie was an artist and Chris was a doctor. Together they had two beautiful children. When those children are taken from them abruptly by a cruel twist of fate (a bus accident), they survive by leaning on each other. Late one night, at the scene of a car accident, Chris stops to help the victims and he took is cruelly ripped away when a car strikes him.

Annie is left devastated by her grief. Paralyzed and mired in it, she commits suicide and becomes eternally trapped in the mire of a hell created by her pain. Chris, however, is in heaven with all it’s vibrant, powerful colors and wonderful experiences. But he is alone without the love of his life. Although reunited with his beloved children, he leaves heaven, traveling into the bowels of his wife’s misery to be with her once more.

In the end, Chris and Annie are reunited and their love story continues and to this day, I cannot help but cry at the raw beauty of emotion captured in this story. All of these characters are haunted by love. The promise of love after death makes all of these stories timeless.

Do you believe in love after death?

2 comments:

  1. I remember reading the book What Dreams May Come and just adoring it. Now I want to see the movie.

    I think yes, for some, love is just that strong. Remarkable, and rather bittersweet, too, I think.

    Interesting post Heather!

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  2. I don't think I've ever read the book. I will have to find it. The movie is just really special in my book. And I have yet to watch it without sobbing.

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